Today was the best day of my life!
Actually, no. That’s a lie. Today was a good day, not the best, but pretty damm good. 8/10.
But the reason why today stands out for me is not because good things happened. In fact, many objectively bad things happened.
Nope. Today stands out as a good day because I created it. And it started when I woke up.
I woke up this morning feeling sick and feeling tired. Last night I had all the signs that I was coming down with something, the escalating cough, the sore throat, a mild headache brewing. I went to bed thinking, “Not again, WTF!” (Anyone with kids will tell you that the bloody colds/flu/ bugs are non-stop when they’re in daycare.)
Luckily for me, I was due for a sleep-in today! Dreamboat is decidedly not a morning person, but we have negotiated two days a week that I can sleep in – Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Before you exercise any feminine rage over this arrangement (for the women reading this), our relationship is fair and equal. Dreamboat and I play to our strengths rather than doing everything 50/50. I cook, and he cleans. I shop, and he does washing. I do mornings, he stays up and puts the place back in order. It works.
Anyway, I woke up to William fussing and cluster-feeding. And then I heard the dreaded sound of a little voice saying, “Hi, mummy”. Both kids were awake.
My first thoughts were of how tired I felt. I’d say that I catch myself in this loop/ thought pattern nine times out of ten when I wake up. I usually spot it immediately and choose a different ‘story’ to start my day.
Today was a challenging day. Today I also felt sick. My cough is worse, my chest feels heavy, but mostly I feel run down. I HATE BEING SICK!
Being sick makes me feel weak and vulnerable, which gets me into my story of ‘I need to look after myself/ be superwoman’. It’s a bit triggering, in other words.
Dreamboat LUCKILY got his shit together quite quickly and cleared out with William. Makia opted to have a sleep-in with mummy.
That sleep-in consisted of me trying to sleep and Makia sitting by my side ‘reading’ the giant stack of books by the bed as only a three-year-old who can’t actually read can.
“And then there was a sick person, and then he was in the garden and then HAT.”
I reached over and grabbed my eye mask.
Too late. Not only was I wide awake, but my thoughts were spiralling.
“Why doesn’t Emmanuel come and get Makia?” (Reality = he thinks she’s sleeping.)
Yes – I call him Emmanuel and not Dreamboat when I have murderous thoughts about him.
“Why doesn’t Emmanuel check in to see if I’m okay?” (Reality = he thinks I’m sleeping.)
“ I feel sick”. “I feel tired”. Woe. Is. Me.
(Remembering that all of this unfolded in a matter of minutes.)
When I feel tired, I can usually catch my thoughts quickly.
When I feel sick, I can usually catch my thoughts quickly.
When I feel tired and sick, AND it’s my sleep-in day, and someone hasn’t taken both the kids so that I can sleep, I get pissy.
Now, had my morning started like this a few years ago, I probably wouldn’t have caught the thoughts at all. I would have surrendered to the negative thought pattern and let my day spiral.
And I honestly think that I was borderline today. Not getting my sleep-in on one of my only two sleep-in days for the week is a sore spot. It would have been so easy to let my ego completely take over today.
Let me explain that better:
When I’m thinking in a familiar way or using ‘patterns’ of thought that I commonly use, it’s easy to identify with the thoughts, believe them as reality and allow them to frame my entire day.
Modern science tells us that our brains crave familiarity. Anything different to usual, even thoughts (especially thoughts, as the brain can’t distinguish between thoughts and reality), feels like a threat to our survival.
Literally, neural pathways in our brains keep our thought patterns fixed. It is far easier to think the same way we’ve always thought than to catch the thoughts and choose differently.
Oh, and just to pile some shit onto the shit pile, our brains also have what is called a negativity bias. We are hard-wired to think negatively and attract negativity because it helped us to survive back in the days of being lower down the food chain.
The negativity bias, as defined by Positive Psychology.
(When we scanned our environment for threats like a sabre tooth tiger poised to pounce.)
So we have brains that like to think the same way they’ve always thought. (This goes way back to our childhood, by the way, that’s why they call the ages 2-7 formative.)
Our brains develop neural pathways to make it easier to think the same way.
And we have a negativity bias that has us prefer negativity and negative thoughts.
Have you got all that? Good, back to my story.
I’m tired. I’m sick. Makia is keeping me awake. I’m in my story of feeling like nobody can help me and I need to be superwoman. I’m mad at Emmanuel for not reading my mind from the lounge room, and I’m pissed that I’m not sleeping on my sleep-in day.
At this point, I have a choice in front of me. Only it doesn’t feel like a choice. It feels like it’s just going to be a shit day.
And that was the point that I got a teeny tiny bit of separation from my thoughts and decided; I’m not going to play that game today.
THAT was the microsecond when I said, “Fuck you, thoughts. NOT TODAY”.
People talk about personal development breakthroughs as massive, formative, painful, and devastating. They’re called breakdowns and mid-life crises. And yes, I’ve experienced all of that.
But to me, the ‘work’ is always in catching myself right at the start of a spiral and choosing not to play.
How does that look?
Today it started when I had that split second of awareness of my thoughts.
(Keeping in mind that I’ve been practising awareness of my thoughts for five years now, it’s gotten easier over time.)
I also had an idea this morning of my thoughts being a magnet. I knew that my negative thought spiral had the potential to magnetise more negative thoughts to me and manifest actual, real-life scenarios to keep me in the story of ‘Woe. Is. Me.’
I imagined myself as a magnet sucking in negativity. Nope! I definitely did not want to play.
I closed my eyes and found the space between my thoughts and the awareness of my thoughts.
(Basically, I did a micro meditation.)
I focused on my breath and allowed the thoughts to pass by. I focused on my third eye and tapped into my source for a second.
I define my source as the essence of me when you take away my thoughts, my physical appearance, my emotional experiences and my separateness. Spiritual gurus call this God or Being, Source or Consciousness.
I can feel her there quietly, watching without judgment when I am very still. She rolls her eyes at my humanness, like an indulgent parent. She is all-knowing, all love, all connection.
And once I accessed her this morning, I chose not to spiral even though it was an especially challenging and triggering wake-up.
A flash came into my mind; what if I decided that today would be the best day of my life? How would I act? What would I do?
I asked Dreamboat (back to being Dreamboat) to bring me orange juice.
(This instantly shut down the story that I need to do everything and be superwoman.)
I decided to get out of bed and help with the kids rather than lounge around because I thought I deserved it. I WANTED to be with the kids.
I remembered it’s book week, and we sent Makia to daycare without an outfit yesterday. I decided to come up with something today.
Makia and I poured over her book collection while I carefully assessed whether I could scratch together an outfit.
“Parsley Rabbit’s Book about Books”: bunny ears and a carrot.
“Little People Big Dreams, David Bowie: a lightning bolt drawn on her face with eyeliner.
Fuck. Not good enough.
Ah ha! “Ten Minutes to Bed, Little Mermaid”. The title jumped out at me.
The literary classic, Ten Minutes to Bed, Little Mermaid.
Makia has a mermaid tail. Grandma has a starfish. I could dress her like Splash, the titular character of the literary classic “Ten Minutes to Bed, Little Mermaid”.
I started hauling out shell necklaces, grandma’s starfish – who some of my Instagram followers will remember as the famous “Starry”, and finally went looking for the mermaid tail.
Remember when I used to take photos?
Where is it?
After a solid fifteen-minute search through every item of clothing our entire family owns, it was clear that the mermaid tail was missing.
I retraced my steps. Where were we when I last saw the mermaid tail? It wasn’t that long ago. Ah- ha! A jacuzzi with our besties.
So the mermaid tail must be … in the pram!
I hauled the kids downstairs, now quite determined that Makia goes to daycare dressed as Goddam Splash from “Ten Minutes to Bed, Little Mermaid”.
We found the mermaid’s tail. Soaking wet and dirty balled up in the bottom of the pram.
(How interesting, by the way, that my ego was determined to get me back on track to having a bad day.)
I took a deep breath.
She’s three years old, I told myself. She doesn’t care. Let’s just throw on the bunny ears and send her to daycare as Parsley Rabbit.
Makia swiftly shut down that idea. I frantically scanned her bookshelf again and came across our Josephine Baker book.
For those that don’t know, Josephine Baker was a black American dancer who became the first black woman to star in a movie in 1927. She was a celebrated performer, is noted for contributions to the civil rights movement and even aided the French resistance during World War II.
We only needed a skirt and a feather for Makia’s hair for the perfect Josephine Baker outfit.
I hauled the kids downstairs to hunt for feathers, and we had the best time traipsing up and down the local streets, asking ourselves which way looked more “feathery”.
Despite Wednesday being my work day and Dreamboat’s turn to get the kids ready and do drop off, I lovingly got my girl dressed and had a mini photo shoot.
The spitting image, I tell you.
When Dreamboat asked if I could watch Will so he could do a workout at the gym, I willingly said yes.
I felt zero attachment to my day going a certain way. I felt zero stress or worry about getting my work done.
And that, to me, is the definition of surrender.
I spent my entire morning surrendering to the external circumstances that make up my life.
I don’t get enough sleep. (I’m a breastfeeding, co-sleeping mother).
I’m sick. (Yep, my body is sick today. I’m exposed to seven million kindy germs a day).
We lost the mermaid tail and then couldn’t wear it. (Time for plan B and modelling emotional regulation to my daughter simultaneously.)
I started work way, way later than usual. (Who cares, I get to choose).
And most importantly, I didn’t allow negativity to creep in and keep me in its clutches.
For so much of last year, and honestly for most of my life before I became ‘Australia’s First Professional Instagrammer’, I felt so stuck.
But being stuck only means choosing the same thing.
Today I chose differently. And I’ll do it again and again and again.
Because THAT is the secret to living a beautiful life.
It sounds so easy, but it’s the hardest thing in the world to do. It is a forever practice.
So now I’ll send this email. Then I’ll shower and appreciate the luxury of having hot water flowing from my taps.
This afternoon I’ll do my first personal training session. The same session I told myself I wouldn’t be able to do because I’m sick. (Don’t worry, I’ll take it easy).
I’ll enjoy my family, appreciate my dinner, and find moments of presence and gratitude.
And what could be better than that?
If you could choose to make tomorrow the best day of your life, how would you feel? What would you tell yourself? Play the game and tell me how it goes for you.
It is, after all, a game, this crazy thing called life.
P.S. Here’s a recent interview I did with the inspiring Komal Gupta, president of the Haryana Council India.
Check it out here.
** Originally shared to my email database on the 23rd of August, 2023 **